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Lee Health: Stay vigilant

By Staff | Apr 30, 2020

As Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Phase One” plan to reopen Florida plays-out across the state, local health officials will continue with their in-place hospital and nursing home visitor restrictions.

“I understand this creates a hardship for many families, but this remains necessary to keep their loved ones safe during this pandemic,” said Lee Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Antonucci on Thursday. “Our caring nurses have gone above and beyond to utilize technology to allow family members to virtually visit their family members, and we look forward to welcoming visitors back into the facilities as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Antonucci said phase one will allow hospitals to resume elective surgeries, starting Monday, though Lee Health is working on its plan to resume these services and will announce the date when it is determined.

As we reopen, officials say to stay vigilant.

With a majority of county beaches and parks reopening throughout Southwest Florida, health officials tell the public this does not mean the threat of the coronavirus is gone.

Phase one also will allow for restaurants to again offer dine-in, and outside, seating while meeting physical distancing and sterilization standards.

Floridians, waiting with bated breath for the reopening of the state and life as we used to know it, should remain vigilant in practicing social distancing and hygiene habits.

“These developments are exciting for our community, which has largely been staying safely at home for over a month, but I continue to stress the importance of continuing to practice distancing, masking and proper hand hygiene while we enjoy the expanded recreational options that come with phase one,” Antonucci said.

He also applauded the public for its efforts thus far to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Lee County, which has a population of more than 700,000 residents.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Florida Department of Health had recorded 1,021 total positive cases in the county, including its 43rd death.

“Getting to this point was made possible because of the community-wide effort in fighting coronavirus. Our collective physical distancing, masking and hygiene habits are the No. 1 reason we avoided the exponential growth that we feared would happen in Southwest Florida,” Antonucci said. “We are all excited to return to some degree of normalcy, and it is likely in the coming days some types of local businesses will begin to reopen, giving our community further options to get out of their homes for a few hours. While these are encouraging developments, the message remains the same. The opening beaches, parks and businesses does not mean the threat is over and, when going out in public, we must continue to practice the same preventative measures that have kept our community as safe as possible. We must continue to physically distance ourselves from others, wear masks in public and practice good hand hygiene habits.”

Antonucci said he cannot foresee as to when these precautions would be lessened, but said it will still be “months, and maybe even more than a year,” until we’re able to be shoulder-to-shoulder and interacting as we once were before this global pandemic.

He advised all businesses, schools and workplaces to follow guidelines issued by the CDC and EPA on how to properly disinfect all public areas, which will be vital to keeping guests safe.

Antonucci said local leaders and health care experts will continue to monitor the impact of the virus on the community as it opens in phases and when it is appropriate to move forward.

“Reopening requires us to continue to move forward together, now is not the time for complacency, as not taking safety precautions when out in public could mean restrictions will have to be put back in place,” he said.

Officials said triage tents may start being removed for hospital emergency departments, though all patients will continue to be screened for respiratory illness and separated from others if they display signs of COVID-19.

“The fight is not over, but we are winning, and I look forward toward slowly enabling our community to enjoy everything Southwest Florida has to offer,” Antonucci said.

By the Numbers

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, there are 33,690 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in Florida, an increase of 497 since FDOH’s last update Wednesday morning.

The death toll increased by 50 from 11 a.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Thursday, reported among Lee, Broward, Charlotte, Dade, Hernando, Lake, Manatee, Okaloosa, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties..

A total of 382,966 individuals have been tested: 348,715 have tested negative, 561 tests were inconclusive and 1,187 tests are pending results. Of those testing positive, 5,589 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. There have been 1,268 deaths.

While Florida’s testing has increased over the past week, the percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19 overall is 9 percent. On April 29, 5 percent of new cases tested positive.

Of the total cases in the state, 1,751 have traveled, 11,606 have had contact with a confirmed case, 1,569 have both traveled and had contact with a confirmed case and 17,875 are under investigation.

Gov. DeSantis’ office on April 28 released statistics pertaining to Florida residents and COVID-19 cases based on FDOH numbers and population, that show per 100,000 Floridians, there is a 5.2 percent mortality rate and a 9.8 percent hospitalization rate.

In Lee County, 1,021 individuals have tested positive as of 11 a.m. Thursday; 394 in Fort Myers, 189 in Cape Coral, 206 in Lehigh Acres, 88 in Bonita Springs, 47 in Estero, 36 in North Fort Myers, eight in Sanibel, seven on Fort Myers Beach, six in Alva, one on Captiva, and one in Boca Grand.

Positive COVID-19 cases in the county have ranged front infants to a 100 year-old man. Lee County saw its first two cases on March 7, when a man and a woman, each 77, tested positive. They had traveled to the Dominican Republic.

There have been 43 deaths in Lee County, an increase of two from Wednesday to Thursday. All but one was between the ages 61 to 96, with 38 aged 65 or older. The exception was a 39-year-old man who died March 25.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lee Health had 83 COVID-19 patients isolated in system hospitals, an increase of two from Wednesday. A total of 205 patients who had tested positive have been discharged, including nine on Wednesday.

The system has submitted a total of 10,566 specimens for testing

Lee Health mobile collection sites on Wednesday collected 207 specimens and had a total of 1,007 telemedicine visits between Lee TeleHealth and MyChartVideo.

Lee Health has 177 employees quarantined at home, down substantially from Wednesday. Twenty-five employees currently are positive for COVID-19, down from 28, after being exposed at work.

Current bed capacity is now at 61 percent, with 9 percent of those being COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious viral disease. For most individuals, symptoms are mild. For a minority, the disease becomes a type of viral pneumonia with severe complications. Especially at risk are those who are older, those with underlying health conditions and the immune-compromised.

Officials strongly urges all members of the public who can, remain at home so as to limit exposure and so limit the number of cases so as to not overwhelm the health care system with at-risk and severe cases.

For more detail on Florida resident cases, visit the live DOH Dashboard.

To find the most up-to-date information and guidance on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage. For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control, visit the CDC COVID-19 website. For more information about current travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State, visit the travel advisory website.

For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, contact the Department’s dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 1-866-779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVID-19@flhealth.gov.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj